As I write this, Christmas is about 6 or 7 weeks away. It’s so amazing how the time just flies by. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I took our Christmas tree down.
But as Christmas draws near and we think about Jesus’ birth, it’s equally important to think about his death. And here in Isaiah 52-53 we see a mini-biography of his life and death, hundreds of years before he was born. What do we learn of him?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (53:2)
If I had been God, I would’ve probably had him born of a noble family. Probably a king. And I would’ve made him the most handsome and majestic person you had ever seen. But instead, he was like a root out of dry ground. He was born to a simple, poor carpenter.
And according to Isaiah, he was a simple looking man. Nothing outstanding at all in the way that he looked. He looked like any another man you might see on the street. The women around him certainly weren’t flocking to him based on his looks.
Not only that, he was a man familiar with rejection. It says in verse 53:3,
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Sometimes we wonder if Jesus could identify with us. Many of us are not so handsome or beautiful. Many of us have known rejection. Yet Jesus understands us, because he was like us in every way.
Not only could Jesus identify with us, he also loved us deeply. Though we rejected him, though we “considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted,” yet
he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (53:5)
It wasn’t even as if we were seeking a relationship with him. We were running as far away from him as we could. As it says in 53:6,
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.
Yet even so,
The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (53:6)
It’s almost unimaginable. Though we rejected him, though we ran from us, he was willing to suffer unspeakable pain in order to take the punishment for our sins.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away…Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness. (53:7-8, 52:14)
And then on the cross,
he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken…he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (8, 12)
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (53:9)
But that isn’t the end of the story, for
though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (10-11)
In other words, death would not keep hold of him. He would see the “light of life” and live again, his days prolonged. Not only that, he would live to see his offspring, we who would believe in him and become part of God’s family.
That’s why Jesus came. That those of us who had run from him, who had rejected him, who were headed towards eternal death, could be saved from our sins and come into a relationship with God as his children. That through him we could know true life. That’s Christmas.
So as we draw close to the Christmas season, let us not only remember Jesus’ birth, but his death and resurrection as well. Let us remember that this Jesus can identify with us, that he loves us, and that he came to redeem us. And let us share that knowledge with those around us, that they may know him too.